When Is It Better to Settle Out of Court Than to Go to Trial?

It can be a gamble when it comes to making the decision to settle a case or let it go to trial, in any type of legal proceeding. Workers’ compensation cases are no different. Sometimes, it is best to take the case to trial, while other times it is best to settle.

What factors play into when it is best to settle the case than take it to trial? We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:

Different Types of Workers’ Compensation Settlements

When it comes to negotiating a settlement, most states offer a lump-sum settlement option, meaning the employee can receive one payment instead of a weekly permanent disability payment.

The settlement amount can also include a figure for future medical expenses, compensation for any money the insurance company owes the client for overdue temporary disability benefits, and payment for unreimbursed medical expenses.

If the injured employee does not want to receive one large lump-sum, he or she can also negotiate a structured settlement, which will pay him or her over a period of time.

The benefit to structured settlements is that the client does not waive all rights to future medical care, while he or she has to do this in a lump-sum settlement agreement.

Advantages of Settling

Several advantages exist to settling a worker’s compensation case, including the following:

  • In a workers’ compensation hearing, the possibility always exists that the injured employee will get less money than what the insurance company is willing to offer through a settlement;
  • In fact, in a settlement, the agreement can be whatever the parties agree to, but in a hearing, the judge has complete control over what is ordered. Many parties prefer to have control over the outcome of the case and choose to settle for this reason;
  • The trial process can be lengthy and time-consuming. Coming to a settlement and receiving payment for benefits can be done much quicker than the time it can take to get on the hearing docket;
  • Many states do not allow the employee to receive a lump-sum payment after he or she wins at trial. Instead, the employee will be restricted to receiving weekly payments for weeks or years.

When Is It Better to Settle Out of Court Than to Go to Trial?

Disadvantages to Settling

However, taking a settlement out-of-court can also have its disadvantages, including the following:

  • Being given a lump-sum payment for permanent disability in a settlement can be a bad thing for some individuals. Many will be tempted to blow through the money immediately, leaving them with nothing to help them make ends meet due to the ongoing disability.
  • If the individual anticipates future medical expenses, including surgery or medication down the road, giving up the person’s right to receive future medical payments in return for a lump-sum payment can be a bad idea. Depending on the injury, it can be a better idea to keep that option open.
  • A weekly structured settlement payment can help injured individuals who have a strict budget and need this type of regular payment.
  • The judge can also end up ordering more than what the insurance company is willing to offer. While it can work against the client, it can also go in his or her favor.
  • Many clients fear the possibility of losing at trial, and while that is a real possibility, the employee can appeal a negative ruling. Also keep in mind that legal fees can be part of the workers’ compensation settlement award, so this should not deter the individual from hiring an attorney to assist him or her in the process.

Judge Review of Settlement

One matter to keep in mind is the workers’ compensation judge will have to review the settlement no matter what before it becomes official. If the judge does not believe the settlement is in the best interests of the client, it will not be granted, and the employee may end up at trial regardless.

This can work in the injured employee’s favor to keep an unfair settlement from being issued if the employee is unrepresented by counsel. If an attorney is not representing the employee at this point, one should be hired or at least consulted on the case.

Contact an Attorney Today

If you are in the process of pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions whether it is better to settle your case than go to trial, a workers’ compensation attorney can help review your case and discuss your options.

An attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed. Contact an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law to schedule a consultation today.

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